Merkel visits disaster areas, defends early warning system, gets booed

Floods in Europe have killed 200 people. Germany and Belgium recorded 169 and 31 people killed respectively. Today, July 20, German Chancellor Angela Merkel continued her visit to the affected areas as the Belgian nation observed a moment of silence. She received boos from residents as she defended Germany’s early warning system.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited one of the states worst hit by last week’s floods, North Rhine-Westphalia, at noon today. “When you see these conditions on the ground, these floods are beyond your imagination,” she said as she viewed the damage in the small medieval community of Bad Münstereifel.

For several days, Germany’s national early warning disaster system has been criticized for partially failing to warn the western population of the severity of the floods in a timely manner.

Armin Schuster, chairman of Germany’s citizens’ protection agency, which has been particularly criticized by public opinion, said his agency had issued about 150 warnings through apps and the media. However, the floods caused massive power outages and knocked out telecommunications antennas, preventing residents from receiving timely warnings.

Merkel defended Germany’s warning system, saying the German weather service and the Federal Office for Population and Disaster Prevention issued warnings. Those alerts were then passed on to the districts. They did everything they could. Of course, as the mayor of Bad Münstereifel said, there has not been a flood like this for 700 years and it is not easy to be able to think of this”.

Merkel insisted: “We have a very good early warning system.” Her statement drew whistling boos from residents in the audience.

Like Schuster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated the use of old-fashioned sirens as an additional warning tool. “Maybe the good old sirens are more useful than we think,” she said.

However, last year’s nationwide test of Germany’s old Cold War-era alarm system ended in a fiasco: some sirens failed to sound for technical reasons. Some municipalities decided they were useless and simply removed them. The government has since launched a €90 million program in the spring to rebuild the warning network. New tests are planned for next year.